Baby Ducks And Ominous Water Parks: Rachel Connor Talks ‘Regular Show: Hydration’ Graphic Novel [Interview]
Boom! Studios has found success with a line of Adventure Time original graphic novels that’s being published alongside the ongoing monthly comic, so it was only a matter of time before they expanded that strategy to include Regular Show as well. Now, we’re just about to see the first full-color Regular Show graphic novel, Hydration, hitting shelves with a story of everyone’s favorite raccoon and bluejay dealing with a heat wave that hits the park, sending them in search of a way to cool off. It’s a simple idea, but under Rachel Connor and Tessa Stone, it turns into a sprawling adventure that’s full of the magical realism and 8-bit video games that Regular Show fans have come to love.
To find out more, I spoke to Connor about the process of creating a story that would be longer and more complicated than any episode of the show, the strange twists that allowed it to expand to a full 155 pages, and why the Baby Ducks just had to make an appearance.
ComicsAlliance: One of the fun things about Hydration is that it’s a really huge story, especially compared to the 11-minute episodes on Cartoon Network. When you were offered the chance to pitch a graphic novel, was the chance to throw so much in there something that appealed to you up front, or did Hydration start off as a smaller idea that just kept growing?
Rachel Connor: It certainly was quite nerve-wracking since I think the longest Regular Show episodes have been three or four special 22 minute episodes, whereas a 155 page graphic novel is pretty much feature length in scope! Luckily, I’ve had experience with just that sort of challenge back when I was involved with writing Ed, Edd and Eddy’s Big Picture Show. Hydration started off as a small core idea at first and grew and grew until it became a bit more of a sprawling epic.
CA: How did the story develop, in terms of which parts came first and which were added on as it grew? Was the core of it the idea of the water slides showing up in the Park one day that just expanded from there, or did it start with something else?
RC: The ominous water park was definitely there from the start as the elevator pitch, and the stakes and scale of the rest of the book spun out of how big it needed to be. Things that changed most were some of the heat-beating shenanigans in the first act and the extension of certain fight sequences. Oh, and I’d gotten too used to writing in “colour” as I’d forgotten Boom’s OGN’s were releasing in manga style grayscale at the time, so I had to rewrite some stuff to communicate jokes in monochrome. Then we got bumped up to full color so… yay!
CA: As the story goes on, you get to throw in a lot of stuff, like the Baby Ducks, to the point where it feels like a sort of “Regular Show’s Greatest Hits” story, in the best way possible. Was there stuff that you wanted to work into it that didn’t make the cut?
RC: Speaking as a big fan of the show, I wanted to cram in as many call-backs and concepts as feasibly possible. Fans can probably infer that if the Baby Ducks turn up, something else must definitely happen, too. Originally, I was tasked with writing 130 pages, but I got a bit of a bump to 155 after the fact which meant I could jam in absolutely everything I wanted into this tale. Still got a fair few ideas for other Regular Show stories, though!
CA: Was the pacing a challenge? The story really feels like a set of interconnected episodes that just keep getting bigger and bigger, which seems like it’d be hard to pull off.
RC: I’ll fess up now that my partner Robert Luckett was a big help when it came to structuring the graphic novel, aas well as sharing a couple of great scene ideas, too. We split it into three acts, then divided the page count up into beats of the story. With that framework in place, it was a lot more manageable and easy to keep momentum throughout, knowing how many pages I could devote to a sequence of the story.
CA: How was the shift to a new medium? You have a background in writing for cartoons with Ed, Edd and Eddy, and with this you’re writing for characters known for animation that have been moved into comics. Was there difficulty there?
RC: I actually have just recently finished the second draft of my first YA novel with my co-author Kay Ediger, which I’ll be pitching around soon so I’m all over the place medium-wise. Also, back during the Eds days I was peering over the other head writers’ shoulders when they wrote a few comics for DC’s Cartoon Network Block Party. Might have even in wrote one myself in secret. Shh!
CA: How much did you do in terms of breakdowns or outlines? Was it just figuring out which sequences you wanted to do and allotting pages to them, or did it get more in-depth than that?
RC: Things such as setting what acts I wanted to be the longest in page count, whereabouts certain conflicts would resolve or erupt, and just generally keep a good rhythm going for the reader that’s on this thrill ride. Since I had the luxury of pages out the wazoo, I also wanted to put in some double page spreads for the most poignant moments of the story and that involved keeping track of odd and even pages so they’d come in at the right place for printing. From the previews I’ve seen Tessa Stone has nailed them (and all of it) of course! I tried not to be too in depth or stifling with my script as well because giving the artist room to breathe and flourish with certain concepts makes for a better comic and its as much their story to tell as mine.
CA: There’s something in this story that happens with Eileen and Margaret that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who hasn’t read the story yet, because it is amazing. When I got to that point in the story, the only thing I could think of was how jealous I’d be if I was one of the show writers that I didn’t come up with that idea. Was there any reaction from Cartoon Network or from the Regular Show staff when they saw that scene?
RC: I got a big kick out of writing that scene, so thanks for the high praise! I guess everyone will have to sate their curiosity by buying the OGN to find out what happens. [Laughs] I hope I didn’t step on any of the CN writers’ toes while stomping around in their sandpit, though. Minty Lewis‘ run in the main comic has been some great fun with its Eileen focus, and I admire her work with the character a bunch. With the OGN, I decided to clearly set the story in-between a season of the show so it doesn’t clash with anything that was coming out afterwards. I kinda freaked out a bit when the main plot point of a recent episode was the boys competing to win an air conditioner to beat the heat, but, then again, Hydration is set way before that point. Phew.
CA: It’s really tempting to ask about other story ideas you have, but instead, I’m curious about what characters you’d like to put a focus on. The whole cast (and a handful of minor characters) show up in Hydration, but is there anyone in there that you’d like to put in the spotlight?
RC: Setting the OGN (and my other backup stories) in the pre-CJ dating era meant I didn’t have the chance to really write her into my current stuff, so I’d like to incorporate her into a few future ideas I’ve had for some smaller comics if I get the chance. I’m also always a big fan of Benson episodes and had a big idea to do with him for another OGN perhaps but I saw a comic blurb of an upcoming main comic issue with him as the focus so I might have to enquire how close they’d be in concept. Ooh I’m being too cryptic. Get me.
Regular Show: Hydration will be on sale September 10, 2014 at finer comic book stores everywhere.